It’s a beautiful day.
I am breathing. I am strong.  I am safe.  I am hopeful.
I raise my head high.

It’s a beautiful day.


His paintings adorn the walls of art collectors and galleries all over the world. His work is admired by statesmen and enthusiasts far and wide. On a perfect  day in August, I found myself  in the company of Gbolade Omidiran- artist of great talent and extraordinary success. Read the rest of this entry »

Much has been written about the sacred status of Ile -ife; “the cradle” of the Yoruba race.There are myths and legends, there is history and folklore, there is a cultural earnestness which permeates every day living in this ancient city.

I was drawn to  Akire Temple at Ilare compound. In the summer of 2017, the University of African Art  brought its GownTown initiative to Ile-Ife. Led by Prof Moyo Okediji and Dr Oluseyi Ogunjobi, Akire Temple became a location for a workshop on  art.

Images of men, women and children engaging with  traditional skills;   preparing indigo dye for adire textiles, using natural  pigments to paint and collaborate  on artwork was inspiring to see.

And so it was. I spent an afternoon at Akire Temple with Oba Akire and Olori Aderonke.

The conversations were lively. We spoke about the history of Orisha Akire and it’s relevance for the people of Ile-Ife and the descendants of Akire all over the world.

I was fascinated by the visual artistic display all around me. Beautifully bright traditional textiles:  Adire Eleko, Adire Kiko, Adire Alabere, painting on fabrics and the cosmic wall murals and sand paintings.

A temple dedicated to the practice of Yoruba traditional religion used as an artistic, social  and cultural space was a dynamic idea. It reinforced for me the view that Yoruba traditional religion and the expression of Yoruba culture are often inseparable.  I scrutinized  the murals on the shrine walls.

These are sacred paintings.  They reflect the deep observational nature of the Yoruba people and the importance of symbolic motifs. Traditionally done by a guild of women shrine painters of Akire shrine, these small and large symbols, shapes, and geometric designs filled the outer walls of Akire shrine.

Ile Ife is a spiritual place.  Everywhere you look, from the palace to the ancient groves, Yoruba culture is profuse. You see it in the festivals, the monuments dotted around the town and the symbolic objects which resonate with meaning and reverence.

However, through reclaiming sacred spaces like Akire temple for artistic and cultural activities, we create opportunities for even more awareness of the richness of Yoruba heritage and indigenous knowledge.

It is important to value what we have.

Opportunities which knit together indigenous artistic knowledge and traditional religion acts like culture conduits. They connect women, men and entire families to their Yoruba lineage, ancestry, heritage and identity.

 

Everyday there are worlds waiting to be found. If you are persistent and with a bit of luck, you may find a few exceptional ones. In a quiet corner of Ibadan, I found Tunde Odunlade.

Criss-crossing the sprawling city, It took a while to find  him, but we did. We were swept into the hands of an artist totally involved with the idea of ” art with a purpose in nation building”.

He welcomed us like old friends and we wandered into his world without walls.

Warm, witty, intelligent, creative and erudite, Odunlade is an exceptional artist and a charming host. An Ife prince, Odunlade moved from Ile-Ife to Ibadan in the 70’s.



With over 42 years as a successful textile and fiber art specialist, his style is engaging and diverse.  Floatographs. Bartiking, marbling caligraphy and Adire. Beading on textiles and beaded appliqués. But there is more.

Intricate and intriguing, Odunlade wants you to enjoy the beauty and creativity in his soul but not without thinking about yours.

We talked about “Oju Inu, agba oye” , Odunlade’s upcoming exhibition at University of Ibadan’s Institute of African Studies on the end of August 2017.

This exhibition takes as its premise the Yoruba proverb : “Oye lagba wo, iriri sagba ohun gbogbo” which means the elderly seeks first to understand while experience supersedes all things.

Hence, ” Oju inu, agba Oye” takes us on a journey. It examines the indigenous  knowledge of the Yoruba people passed down through the generations in proverbs, idioms, folklore and traditional skills such as Adire . This knowledge is enriching, the basis for the understanding and value of self.

With pieces like “Oya goddess of the wind” and “Oduduwa”, the examination of Yoruba mythology and heritage is inherent in many of the pieces.

When you consume Odunlade’s  art, you must engage with your social, and political consciousness- your place and purpose in society. Each piece evoked particular ideas.  The failure of the Nigerian state. Underdevelopment in Africa. The colonial legacy. Yoruba history and Heritage. Karma and consciousness.

Very quickly, I realised that I would have to keep up with the dexterity of Odunlade’s intellect and prolific creativity.

This  art has travelled the world. Odunlade  had shared his vision with audiences at  the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, the  Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Jordan museum of Art and many more.

His work  resonates.

It draws attention by its range of techniques, its beauty and its embedded narratives. For a few hours, I was driven into a world of absolute synergy between artist and his art.

Beyond aesthetics, Odunlade wants you affected. This is not art for the fun of it. This is art that speaks to you about your intentions, motivations  and your everyday interactions with the world in which you live.

I am glad Tunde Odunlade invited me to his home and allowed me to travel with him into his visionary world.

 

 

I couldnt take my eyes off the horizon.
Blue and magnificent, the Atlantic stretched leisurely in the distance. Fishing boats rested, quiet and aloof under the coconut trees.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Blue skies. Jet skies. Coconuts and fishermen floating down the Volta. Barbecues. Boat rides and buffets. A day of perfect memories at  the Aqua Safari Resort , Ada.
Read the rest of this entry »



Gbemisola street in Ikeja is  very much like any residential street in Lagos. Left and right, houses stand loosely together, interrupted here and there by wooden shops selling a multitude of wares. Then you arrive.
Kalakuta Museum.

Home to the legendary Fela Anikulapo for 31 years,  now a museum, kalakuta shares with the public carefully curated snippets of Fela’s personal life, music and politics.

Today, I am a guest in Fela’s home.I  was excited.  I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Like many of my generation, Fela’s voice, lyrics and roguishness was the draw.

I followed his antics, feverishly read the sensational stories in the newspapers; arrests and re-arrests, rebellion and political activism.

I wandered inside. Cool open spaces. Shadowy walls lit beautifully, covered with pictures of a life lived with such exuberance and much intensity.

Fela’s stairs, bedroom, flamboyant shirts, glamorous shoes, outlandish fur coat,  life on stage and the beautiful people who made his life complete.

The sunlight poured down the high ceiling. I was transfixed. Family portraits carefully lined the walls. I followed the narratives up the elegant spiral stairs.

Like many of my university friends in the 80s, I gyrated to Fela’s pulsing music and shouted out his provocative lyrics. I was fascinated by his lifestyle and intrigued by his outlandish exterior.


Pelumi who showed me around was far too young to even visualise my memories but we both agreed on one thing:
” Fela get message pass today’s musicians”

Importantly, these messages continue to thump off these walls on Wednesdays when Seun Kuti rehearses with his band in Kalakuta.
That almost brought tears welling up. The spirit of Kalakuta is alive and well.

Perhaps it was the light flooding down from the ceiling.

Perhaps it was the life beaming back from the walls, kalakuta didn’t feel dead and dusty.

For a few hours, I was transported completely. Each piece, each picture, each newsprint felt lovingly curated, placed exactly in its place so I could find it today.

In many ways, wether you knew Fela or not, this house must be on your bucket list of places to visit in Lagos.

It tells a story of not just one man and his life but a story of life and living it.

Under the hexagon headstone rests the remains of the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A poignant resting place underneath the balcony where he would have looked outside onto Gbemisola street everyday.

I am always impressed with New York City.

In Manhatten, everything seems larger than life. The buildings loom gigantic in the sky, the billboards create a fairytale sidewalk and the shops spill open with the most wondrous wares. Read the rest of this entry »

 

It`s 7.am.
The strains of music are close enough for me to make out the shrill voice of the soprano and the strident choir cutting through the greyness of dawn. Its Sunday morning . Read the rest of this entry »

I was warmed by the twinkle in her eyes. Playful and assured, Iya Alakun cajoled me to buy even more beads as she spoke of the significance of “akun” in the culture of the Yoruba people. I sat down. Read the rest of this entry »

Elegantly symmetrical lines of black and white pigment, perfectly formed spirals and the striking pink background of the walls and pillars . I was not prepared for all this beauty. The walls cast an ambiance; soft, alluring and feminine. Read the rest of this entry »

Traditional architecture is an integral part of how people construct a sense of interrelatedness with their physical environment.  These buildings tell of the history,  culture, customs and religious beliefs which are intrinsic to a community`s sense of identity. Read the rest of this entry »

Shakespeare described the world as a stage. The Yorubas describe the world as a market. The Yoruba phrase “oja ni aye” is loaded with metaphorical and spiritual  connotations. Read the rest of this entry »

 

I felt that familiar rush of endorphins which happens in my brain when I speak about the genius of the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Had Netflix outsmarted the competition completely  and launched its first movie about the life of one of the greatest musicians of all time?

My face flushed in anticipation. I was about to watch the trailer of “Beast of No Nation” directed by  Joji Fukunaga. I was thrilled. How might Fukunaga tell some of the  complex human and the socio-political stories which Fela vocalised in his lyrics?

Stories of lives in a  society struggling to shape its identity whilst  caught in the clutches of a  corrupt government. Narratives of a country full of  promise, watching its citizens wallow in poverty, violence and fear? And of course the personal stories of highs and lows, of  overwhelming sacrifice and individual loss ?

As I watched the trailer, it dawned on me. Beasts of No Nation is a  great film with some exceptional performances. It tells the story of  militant overlords  and child solders caught up in conflict zones in West Africa.

Nonetheless,  it brought back memories of the original Beasts of No Nation (BONN), one of my favourite Fela albums,  released in 1989 in protest at the  injustice of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Typical of Fela`s style, the front cover itself  is evocative, with superb caricatures of  Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher and of course the notorious P.W Botha.

BONN then and now remains a  compelling track. It  encapsulates the storytelling prowess which Fela was capable of in his songs. I recalled the brilliance of Fela`s imagery. His superb lyrical skill at drawing together so many different threads in his narratives.  His sometimes subtle yet striking juxtaposition of literal and metaphorical connotations and characters.

In BONN like most of his songs, and indeed in  the expression of his life, Fela was in a state of direct protest against all forms of political and personal injustice. He talked about himself.  He talked about Nigeria. He talked about the world in which he lived.

Wherever  injustice had been sown, Fela would  weed it out with his lyrics and  his masterful musical style. He was one of the only artists brave enough to do it. Fela was fearless.

He  openly made a mockery of  the antics of failed governments and political leaders  who were corrupt, cruel and  completely oblivious to the suffering of the Nigerian masses.

In BONN, it was to ridicule the military generals who had sent him to prison, P.W Botha and his blatant atrocities towards the black underclass in South Africa and the United Nations who looked on at the evil of Apartheid.


As many powerful nations pretended that apartheid was acceptable, Fela wanted his voice to ring out in dissent.

In 1986, Botha was famously quoted as saying, “This uprising will bring out the beast in us”.  Beasts of No Nation echoes these words. Fela cleverly plays on and develops this  metaphor of the “beast”.

BONN is Fela’s incisive retort to Botha`s arrogant sense of his own superiority and his belief that the cruelty of apartheid would continue unchanged . It was also a direct response to the insensitivity of the military regime led by General Idiagbon.

In BONN Fela says:
MANY LEADERS AS YOU SEE DEM
NA DIFFERENT DISGUISE DEM DEY-OH
ANIMALS IN HUMAN SKIN
ANIMAL-I PUT-U TIE-OH
ANIMAL-I WEAR AGBADA
ANIMAL-I PUT-U SUIT-U

These words  unpeel the layers of  the metaphorical “beasts”. In  almost 28 minutes of lyrical content, Fela  paints a poignant picture of  the inhuman attributes of  leaders deaf  to the cries  and insensitive to the voices which rage around them.

With their countries in chaos and disarray, leaders like Botha and the military regime in Nigeria were really beasts of no nation;   human  on the outside but lacking the  compassion which qualifies them as human.

They are non leaders. Callous and unfeeling. In them are exemplified the worst aspects of humanity.

I miss Fela`s voice.

I miss his compassion for the underdog. I miss his courage and  strength of purpose.  Two decades on, we only need to look around the world to see the relevance and prophecy of his words. The world it  seems is almost overrun  by a pack of maurauding “Beasts of No Nation”.

Leaders  full of  lies and acts which divide societies, leaders  who preach sermons of bigotry and genocide. In their cruel actions they embody the very essence of Fela`s metaphor of the troglodytes in BONN .

I am glad I  was baptised in Fela`s special brand of humanity all those years ago in Pepple Street.   I am  moved to action- no jonesing here-exactly as Fela would have wanted.

 

 

As strains of the popular  gospel anthem: ” Jesus Na You Be Oga” filtered  from speakers all around the bus, I was determined to keep up.  I joined in, gyrating and singing along as loudly as  everybody else. Inside this luxurious bus meandering its way from Lagos to Accra, the atmosphere was electric; alive with loud, warm voices and many heads bobbing from side to side.


Soon, my attention was drawn  to something else. From the front of the bus came an tumult of voices. I  eased forward in my seat a little anxiously. Then I smiled.

I knew the heart and soul of these  voices well. Quite simply, I often described them as The Forum. If you have ever found yourself standing by a newspaper vendor on a busy junction or roadside in Nigeria, teasing the headlines and watching others gather to do the same, then you might begin to understand the intensity of a social phenomena  like The Forum.

Where two or three people are gathered  to discuss,  express their  unrestrained views on the latest political or celebrity scandal,  football scores or news headlines, you have a powerful mix of energies and ideas.

In Nigerian society, as with all societies, gatherings of this kind are in many ways an absolute necessity. They serve a great need. People have to express themselves especially when faced  with a future which seems to diminish everyday.  This spontaneous and unscripted outpouring in itself is a perfect way for the individual to let off steam. However, the forum is a bit more than this. When most things around you defy all logical reasoning, you crave the company of other people to affirm your own sanity. There is indeed empowerment in numbers.

As I listened to this group of young Nigerian students travelling back to university in Ghana debating with the more restrained voices of seasoned traders, it occurred to me that Nigerians are definitely the most energetic people I know.  Despite what seemed like diverse opinions and  generational differences, the need to speak out and expel strong emotions created an undeniable pull, drawing perfect strangers together . We are all Nigerians in various states of discontent but our passion for a better Nigeria united us even if only for a few restless hours.

It is is where you can test the strength of  your opinions, make other people’s opinions your own, test the depth, volume and timbre of  your voice and most importantly let off steam! For a great atmosphere though, you need a few  important ingredients: naturally gregarious people fermenting with many cantekerous issues and of course… time.

I have seen this before- an ad hoc collectionof voices seemlessly gather and merge into a  formidable vocal formation- on airplanes, airport lounges, in queues waiting for the bus and most especially at the impenetrable wall of people cramped together inside and outside the bank at the end of the month.

And now I wasn’t to be disappointed.  Here we were again.  Another gathering to keep us human on this long distance road trip from Lagos to Accra. I watched the group, further intrigued.

A few hours earlier  we all sat at Yaba  bus park, complete strangers. Now you wouldn’t know it. Eyes have brightened and faces widened with laughter.  Voices are  different too. Some are raised with that unmistakable swagger of a generation who feel connected to the promise of a vibrant future; one mostly fed by the images and stories  which pour forth from the oracles of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and  YouTube.

As I strained to hear  snatches of conversation, I was reminded of many  other forums like this all over Nigeria and indeed in the diaspora. Nigerians like myself with many different voices, in  many different places mostly saying the same things.  Voices asking questions and trying  to proffer solutions  at the same time. Voices  bewildered and hurt, watching a country cascading with such beauty and brilliance continue to move astern without much hope of anything else.

“Muyi shi Gwari Gwari” a popular Hausa expression means-let’s do it like the Gbagyi or in the Gbagyi way.

This sums up the temperament of the Gbayi people, an hospitable, indigenous community who live very much in harmony with their natural environment. 45km from the city of Abuja, is Ushafa village, home to the Gbayi people of Northern Nigeria.

Read the rest of this entry »


New York in the summer is a blast of energy. From Manhatten’s monied half mile to the bustling neighbourhoods of  The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island,  this is a metropolis of the 21st century filled with every degree of human experience you can dare to imagine. Read the rest of this entry »

 

“The real wealth of a nation is its people. And the purpose of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. This simple but powerful truth is too often forgotten in the pursuit of material and financial wealth”.

UNDP 1990

I didn’t see him at first. He was crouched so low on the ground. The possibility that this object was  human, possibly breathing, with a mind capable of thought, just did not make any sense. So my mind stalled. I failed to tackle the obvious;  that this mass of withered limbs sitting quietly in the dust, was in every respect a fully grown man.

iphone pics 230

Then another object caught my eye.

Swirling with certainty in the breeze,  with its vertical bicolor of green and white stood the Nigerian flag. It’s freshly painted  pole gleamed crisp in the sunlight. Spruced up. Clean. Cared for.  This piece of cloth wasn’t forgotten and forlorn in the middle of nowhere.  Somebody clearly understood the need to keep it looking its best. This was  a construct I understood perfectly.  One that didn’t assault my senses like the half-man who rested underneath it.

I wondered about him.

 Every day he crawled to this spot underneath the flag . Every day he aligned himself with this  symbol of a nation’s sovereignty and its embedded values. Here was a mind shrewd enough to choose this exact spot for maximum effect. Certainly, he succeeded in drawing  attention to himself and making “contact” with the thousands who walked past him every day. Whatever drew him here, the ironies were not lost on me, the  juxtaposition, though tragic, was undeniable.

Here was the Nigerian flag; with the symbolic  green stripes representing Nigeria`s natural wealth. And lying in stillness underneath it, was another symbol; one of neglect, a country`s neglect of its greatest wealth; its people.

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I looked away for respite. I felt sorry for this man. He  represented everything uncharitable about a country  which has so much yet pays so little attention to the least fortunate in society.   Why care so much for an object  and so little for what that object stood for?

In the end, the reality remains. Many feet walked hurriedly past the flag. Many seemed  untroubled  by this lone, dusty creature. Perhaps the novelty had worn off. This person, blackened and buried under thick blades of matted hair was now a familiar sight. Like the flag, he too had so seamlessly worked his way into our  psychological landscape; we expect him to be there. However, whichever way we try to explain it away, there is nothing  right about this image.

Nigerian greatnessss

We must do better than just a flag to remind us of our  shared citizenship and moral values.  We must continue to question images which jar our senses and challenge our most basic human emotions. Most importantly, we each have the capacity to act independently, to exercise our personal agency. We simply need to act.

It seems inescapable that I should begin this visual documentation of the Yoruba heartlands in the ancient city of Ile-Ife. Read the rest of this entry »

Big, bold forms in dazzling colour depict human emotions and activity with a skilful touch. A subtle bled of colours set within a collaboration of  creative themes. The work of Emmanuel Anaiye Ifebunmi – the DWebArtist -Web consultant and contemporary Nigerian artist.

DWebartist exemplifies an emerging new breed. A wave of exciting, talented, vibrant, young Nigerians. Men and women in all spheres of work: Music, Media, Film, Literature, Culinary Arts,  Ict,  Online Retail and Contemporary Visual Arts. Despite the odds,  these individuals are making things happen and successfully pursuing their passions.
They have totally embraced the digital world. King and queens of social media, they completely understand the access to information and the global audience it brings. They  own their businesses and market their products. They are experimental and creative with an astute business mind., They are confident, resilient and work twice as hard as everybody else. Like his contemporaries, Emmanuel’s vision for himself and his artistic ambitions are far reaching and constantly evolving .

Who is DWebartist?
Emmanuel’s passion for art was reignited in the ancient town of Ile-Ife. In 2012, he worked under the tutorage of the great artist and teacher Mr Gbolade Omidiran. This was the  unveiling. The world of serious, contemporary art was a revelation. Galleries. Exhibitions. Collectors. Professional artists. The beauty, creativity and the endless  possibilities opened up.

Of what inspires him, Emmanuel says: “It flows through my veins as I create  art that connects with my thoughts.”

This synchronised  dynamism between observation, ideas, expression and the creation of art is one which ensures that Dwebartist makes art  nonstop.  Working with acrylic on canvas, wood  and plastic collage, Dwebartist has a growing clientele and a compelling gallery of work.

And there is more.

Versatility is the new golden skill required in this ever changing and unpredictable world. In a country like Nigeria, where self help is usually the only help you get, these young entrepreneurs understand the power of being versatile and adaptable. DwebArtist is no exception.
Emmanuel is  CEO of EclubHost, a web consultant outfit highly sought after for its professional services and expertise in  website development and support.

EclubHost works with online business start ups, bloggers, artists and anyone who wants  to create a bespoke website to reach a wider audience.
This actually is how I met Emmanuel. In 2014. Osupa.me needed a mobile platform. DWebartist took up the challenge.

How we fill the hours each day is crucial. For most of us, we work in order to look after ourselves and our responsibilities. Sometimes we are lucky to have a choice in what work we do and  then work becomes a deeply fulfilling experience.

The consistent pattern for these young entrepreneurs is the passion with which they are driven in what they do. To choose to make a living as a contemporary artist in Nigeria takes guts. It is inspiring to see  what sheer belief, talent and tenacity can achieve.

As Tom Landry observed: “being the best at whatever talent you have, that’s what stimulates life. It is clear from this amazing array of art that Dwebartist is doing what he does best. His talent speaks to us from every piece.

 

Contact Dwebartist here:

Emmanuelanaiye@rocketmail.com

Facebook @dwebartist

Twitter @dwebartist

Instagram @dwebartist

Bashorun Gaa; the tragic hero of Yoruba mythology was one of the most formidable kings of the  old Oyo Empire. This character conveyed in many ways my childhood fascination for the mythical, almost unbelievable ancestry of the Yorubas. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Architecture is inhabited sculpture.

Constantin Brancusi Read the rest of this entry »

 

 Today`s scenario was an exciting one.  A road trip from Lagos  to Accra.

With an early start, a distance of 600km by road in a comfortable bus should take 9 hours I thought

However, as I set up to depart for the bus park, my friend reminded me of the folly of my plan. Who  travels by road on a most uncertain route  when you can  fly to Accra from Lagos and be there in an hour ? But my reasoning  was far from crazy.

As the largest and second-largest economies in West Africa respectively,  Nigeria and Ghana have strong economic ties with bustling ports which see imports from all over the world. Thousands of Nigerians and Ghanaians travel to and from Seme border into Benin Republic and onward to Togo and Ghana every day along this route. I was determined to see all this action myself.

Sitting in the lounge of the Cross Country  bus park in Yaba, I had to admit  it was all going well. Apart from the early shuffle out of bed,  so far it had  been a pleasant experience. My senses  were fully awake as I took in my surroundings.

The waiting area was  clean and ventilated. A small cafeteria  served a range of travel food while a television  beamed soundlessly in the background. It was a busy morning.  As travellers lugged their bulging bags into the waiting area, many seemed relieved to have made it this far. They arranged themselves in most of the chairs dotted around the room.

All in all, everything seemed perfectly normal except for one tiny detail.  I did not know when we would depart. Like everybody else around me, we all  just waited for the  bus to “be ready”.

Finally, just before 10.am, we were off. The bus lurched forward ponderously out of the car park.  Voices were  raised in prayers all around me and I joined a chorus of many “amens” several times in unison.

A smallish man in a shiny brown conductor suit, seemed to be in charge. He prayed  vigorously and  rendered passages from the bible  with such ease that he gave off a air of deep seriousness.  I wondered if  he was  a  passenger who decided to lead a bus full of strangers  in prayer.  Or  a paid  staff of  Cross Country performing a service for their customers?  Whichever way, we were all in it together and he certainly captured the imagination of  this congregation.

As if  to answer my questions, more gospel songs filled the air.  Men, women and children sang joyously in their loudest voices.

Then the epiphany. I understood completely.

We were Nigerians. It didn’t matter that we started this day as complete strangers. It didn’t matter that no one could predict for certain when we  were going to arrive in Accra or how long we would wait at the various border checkpoints along the way. Ambiance was everything- eagerly expected, passionately sustained and completely welcomed by all.  This faith, this philosophy, this attitude was what  we  needed to get through the next 24 hours. And it all began with the prayers.

What mattered most on that bus, on that  journey, was establishing and preserving a rapport of expectancy, of  blind optimism and faith that all would indeed be well. The pastor, the singing, the banter, the prayers, the  comedy skits, were  essential ingredients to ensure that  our sanity was preserved and our faith restored.

That God is present everywhere and that all prayer, all heartfelt songs of gratitude and thanksgiving wherever shared, must be shared by all, is a faith lived by many Nigerians. And this faith was needed now more than ever.

There was enough drama going on that bus that nobody would have too much time left to wonder about their personal concerns: what to do if you desperately needed the toilet or why the roads  intermittently disappeared into the bushes and came out on the other side of somewhere…

Even though we all  shared these anxieties, we  responded resolutely with a brave face full of  laughter, loud noise and new found camaraderie.

Across 4 countries with some terrain best described as as unnavigable, we eventualy pulled into accra just past midnight.  It had been a fantastic journey. I had learnt a lot. I made some new friends who I would probably never see again  But that didn’t matter. Together we had made this trip. That memory  I will keep forever.

Despite all the delays, the apprehension, the doubts which crept up intermittently, we made it.  We all shared a deep thankfulness  for this fact.

Love is all there is.
Let love in. Let love win.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Return to yourself. Forgive all that is done. Give back love to yourself .
 

Inspire and share Osupa 2017

We all know the feeling well.

Sometimes we simply need to get away; to find a place that allows us to forget  some of the realities of everyday living. A space to relax . Maybe one which reminds us that our faiths and beliefs, our primal connection to nature and divinity defines us as human beings  in a universal way. And for a few glorious hours, I was transported to such a place.  Osun Sacred Grove on the outskirts of Oshogbo town.

 

A dense forest teeming with exotic plants and wildlife.   Sanctuaries. Shrines. Palaces. Exquisite 20th-century sculptures.  A  journey back into an almost forgotten world and the most spectacular examples of sacred art.

It was heavenly beneath the leafy canopy. In midday temperatures close to 29 degrees celsius, I welcomed the green marquee and the coolness of the shade. However, beyond its spectacular natural beauty, this was a special place designated as a World Heritage Site in 2005.

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Home to the goddess of fertility Osun, one of the pantheon of Yoruba gods, the sacred grove  is abundantly dotted with signatures  of Yoruba traditional mythology; shrines, sculptures and contemporary art in honour of Osun and other Yoruba  deities.

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I was  impressed with this congregation of sacred sculptures  only an hour away from my town of ile-ife. Although it was over 40 years old, clearly, this was no forgotten monument out in the middle of nowhere. The grounds, antiquities, museum , sculptures and  structures looked extremely well-kept. As I took it all in,   I was proudly  appreciative of the effort it must take to keep this place maintained to the highest standards.

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With warm smiles and an undeniable enthusiasm for sharing the goodness of Oshun, the Osun devotees spoke with passion. This was an active religious site where daily, weekly and monthly worship takes place. The more I listened to the stories of Osun and her powers to heal and provide hope for those who desire to be mothers, the more I instinctively understood  why this place drew  so many people from all over the world. They believed this to be a place of sacred worship, pilgrimage and transformation.

At a time when many  heritage sites across the world are disappearing, Osun grove remains a thriving, relevant religious and cultural space. It is also an important reminder that we have a history. It is richly textured with a traditional belief system which predates many Western cultures.

I had set out to learn something new about a world which I thought I knew pretty well.  As I left  Osun grove, I was extremely satisfied I had found my way there. Here I was, full of optimism and a  reinforced sense of my own identity and the roots I share with a wider community.

Nestled in the southwestern part of Nigeria is the ancient town of Ile-Ife.  Often described as “the cradle “,Yoruba civilization began here as  far back  as 500 B.C.


There is a deeply spiritual element to this town.  According to Yoruba mythology, ile -Ife was founded by Oduduwa. Odùduwà was the first Ooni (ruler) and king of Ife. Today, his royal highness Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the current  Ooni of Ife is first among all Yoruba kings in status, hierarchy and respect.

Festivals

Ile-Ife continues to  maintain a cultural relevance as the bastion of Yoruba cultural heritage and tradition. Every day of the year, there is a festival to  celebrate one of  the over 300  deities worshipped by traditional priests and devotees in the town.

Often the festivals extend over more than one day and they involve both priestly activities in the palace and theatrical dramatisations in the rest of the kingdom.

Olojo Festival

One of the most iconic of these festivals is “Olojo”. Historically the King only appeared in public during the annual Olojo festival and it is a spectacular affair! Visitors and tourists troop into the town from all over Nigeria and the Yoruba diaspora: Brazil, U.S.A and Cuba.  The climax of the  Olojo festival takes place at Enuwa Square outside the grand palace of the Ooni of Ife.

The clock Tower in Enuwa Square outside the Ooni`s palace where the celebrations take place.
Why Is Olojo Celebrated?

Olojo is celebrated in remembrance of Ogun- the Yoruba mythological god of iron and the first son of Oduduwa. Ogun is a fiery god worshiped and revered by many indigenes of Ife including farmers, blacksmiths hunters, and smelters who  all traditionally make their living using iron implements.

Traditional Rites

The exact date and timing of the festival is one that is considered carefully and very much depends on the movement of the sun from west to east in the 9th month of the lunar year.The decision as to which weekend in October will be the weekend of celebration is the sole responsibility of the Olojo chief priest.

As part of the activities leading up to the grand celebrations, his royal highness, the Ooni of Ife hibernates for seven days in complete seclusion, not communicating with anyone except the ‘spirits’. During the festival and only for a few hours, the Oòni appears, wearing a special beaded crown called “ Ade Are” .


The King leads the crowds to Ogun`s Shrine-  Okemogun to pay homage and make traditional sacrifices  and prayers for the town and it`s indigenes.

 

 

On the final day of the festival, the palace of the Ooni is agog with activity. Groups of traditional craftsmen and women, Ife high chiefs, their court, children and the grand children of the numerous royal families all come out amid colourful outfits, music and dance. It is a proud day for all indigenes of the town.

 Olojo festival is full of colour, pomp and ceremony and one of the most thrilling sights are the  Lokolokos thrill the crowd and quite honestly bring an added element of drama and a cultural authenticity to the event.

Olojo festival is quite simply a fantastic cultural experience. It not only celebrates the history and beliefs of the people of Ife, it also validates  the traditions and ethnic identity of an entire race-the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria.

It is a proud day Ile-Ife indigenes. They come out in strong numbers to pay homage to the Ooni in his palace.

 

 

Be still. The waters will settle.
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Everyday will bring you closer to telling  your story. It will inspire another.

 

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I come to you with my karmic pain
bunched and bundled in tight little rolls
let it be said when this story be told
at least I burdened what’s left of me.

The noise in my head, the pulses I feel
come to me in quick pressing droves
I need you now like the air that I breathe
the air is you that is left in me.

Do not be afraid of this manic phase
this place that tears and brings up rage
let it be said that I came to you
to release me from all my feverish foes.

All rights reserved @Osupa 2014

 

It is unnecessary to define yourself as this and that.
The universe can see you are many things in one. Seek knowledge instead.

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